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Obama’s Michigan trip highlights misguided federal push for ‘green’ auto batteries that cost and pollute more than market-driven competitors

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Joe Tauke
Contributor

President Obama visited Holland, Michigan on Thursday to celebrate a potential success story for both the stimulus package and his auto bailout — the groundbreaking of a factory that will produce the lithium-ion batteries necessary to power thousands of new green vehicles built by Ford and General Motors.

So why does the world’s most successful maker of eco-friendly cars believe that Detroit is once again on its way to peddling products that Americans don’t want to buy?

Toyota Motor Corp., which in 2009 sold more hybrid vehicles in the U.S. than all other auto manufacturers combined, has spent more than a decade developing its own lithium-ion technology. Yet, where Detroit and apparently the Obama administration see a market for nearly-emissionless automobiles, Toyota sees demand for cheaper, low-emissions products. Its first lithium-ion electric vehicle, a version of the Prius, will only have an average range of 13 miles per charge before the standard hybrid engine takes over. GM and Ford are both preparing to launch vehicles designed to rely mostly upon massive batteries that boast an average range of over 30 miles per charge.

The range disparity is no accident on Toyota’s part.

“Consumers have to pay a premium for plug-in capability,” said John Hanson, Toyota’s National Manager of Environmental, Safety, and Quality Communications, in an interview with The Daily Caller. “If we’re trying to create mainstream acceptability, cost is a huge factor, and small batteries are the way to go.”

In other words, the stimulus-sponsored push for rangy electric cars is useless without customers. Dr. Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, explained via email that the White House is getting its own way by ignoring economic reality.

“Rushing to build multiple plug-in battery plants is misguided,” Anderman wrote. “Neither the plug-in battery technology nor the plug-in market are proven and both carry significant risks.”

Independent research verifies the cost concerns. A 2009 study by Carnegie Mellon University comparing the effectiveness of vehicles powered by large plug-in batteries to those powered by small plug-in batteries and conventional hybrid engines found that the lifetime costs of the small-battery vehicles, with ranges similar to the new Prius line, were lower than those of their large-battery counterparts under every tested scenario. The study also found that the largest battery tested, which offered a range of 60 miles per charge, actually produced 10% more greenhouse gases than a battery with a range of only 7 miles when regular recharging was possible, as would be expected with urban driving.

Toyota has come to a similar conclusion about overall pollution.

“Keeping the battery as small as possible is not just a cost issue, it’s a total greenhouse gas issue,” said Hanson. “The environmental effect of producing and charging the batteries, as well as their additional weight, has to be considered.”

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  • teapartypatriot

    South Korean firm LG Chem received $151 million from the Department of Energy to assist their development of batteries. The Compact Power plant in Michigan that “you Lie!” hussein visited will create -at some undetermined future time- up to 300 jobs. That works out to more than HALF A MILLION TAXPAYER DOLLARS PER “POTENTIAL, FUTURE” JOB. Profits from the batteries GO STRAIGHT BACK TO KOREA.

    Once again, the lunatic-left d-crat socialists spit in the face of American businesses to send OUR TAX DOLLARS -AND PROFITS- to South Korea!

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  • appforthat

    Detroit’s using our money to keep building terrible cars? Color me shocked.

    • voxoreason

      Not just yet. GM (or Motors Liquidation Co, MTLQQ:OTC, GM’s “secret identity”) is currently selling shares for 42 cents a pop. On Dec 3 of ’09, market manipulators… er, “fat fingers” (this particular move has its own name; how sweet) drove it down to just over 6 cents. Remember the good old days when guys would spend hours debating on the relative merits of Ford vs Chevy?

      OTC means “over the counter” or a “pink sheet” stock. A co can’t get much lower without going bankrupt. D’oh! They ARE in bankruptcy! Those union guys sure pulled a fast one, huh?